- Of the 283 COVID-19 workplace lawsuits tracked by Fisher Phillips, 122 of them, or 43%, were filed in June, the law firm said in a July 2 press release concerning cases filed through June 30. June's increase represents an "exponential" rise in case filings. Due to "the inherent limitations in tracking such cases in every courthouse in the country," the tracker creates comprehensive, not exhaustive, dataset, Fisher Phillips noted.
- Discrimination and work-from-home or leave claims dominated the collection, representing 63 and 62 of the total cases, respectively. Retaliation cases totaled 41, while unsafe working conditions or lack of personal protective equipment brought in 26 cases. Fisher Phillips counted 20 wage and hour claims. The pandemic is generating class action lawsuits, the law firm found. Forty-one class action claims have been filed against employers since the beginning of the pandemic, and many focus on unsafe working conditions or wage and hour violations.
- The states seeing the most action are the same states that typically see the most employment-related lawsuits — California (47), Florida (32), New Jersey (31), New York (21) and Texas (19), the law firm found.
"This data is a stark reminder for employers that typical best practices cannot be ignored simply because we are operating in unprecedented times," Fisher Phillips said in its press release.
Several high-profile employers have been taken to court over COVID-19 claims. An Illinois Walmart is being sued by the family of an Illinois employee who died after contracting the virus. A former Kroger employee has alleged she was fired from an Indiana store for self-isolating with a potential COVID-19 infection. Stylists at the Hair Cuttery claimed their employer violated the Fair Labor Standards Act and state law by withholding pay for the work performed shortly before the nationwide salon's closure.
Fisher Phillips suggested employers take several steps to avoid receiving such claims:
- Train managers to understand their responsibilities and employee rights.
- Educate managers and HR personnel on the new leave law requirements.
- Develop and communicate a comprehensive safety plan as employees return to the workplace.
- Anticipate the various wage and hour responsibilities that might come into play as the pandemic unfolds.